A Sense of Place Spotlight: Queer Nature

Queer Nature logo

What they do: Queer Nature seeks to create spaces for 2SLGBTQ (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, & questioning) folks and allies to teach and learn place-based skills and philosophies together. Some of the things we love to teach are naturalist interpretation with a focus on vertebrate tracks and sign; awareness, camouflage, stealth concepts and practices; emergency survival skills, and various natural crafts. We also write and publish material in multiple mediums that aims to engage the public with environmental philosophy, queer aesthetics, and related fields. One of our overarching goals is to build and share stories and narratives of belonging through intimacy with nature and place while also thinking and feeling critically about our roles in ecologically, socially, and politically turbulent times.

What’s new or exciting: We are very grateful to be working with a new fiscal sponsor in the last year, Youth Passageways, which is a non-profit devoted to building communities and networks that support healthy and thriving cultures of human development, with a particular focus on the passage into adulthood. Darcy Ottey, colleague, friend, and fellow Methow resident, helped found this organization and has been a huge support in this new step in our journey. Because of our fiscal sponsorship, we have recently been able to receive grants previously unavailable to us from Patagonia and the North Face’s Explore Fund to continue to offer our classes donation-only, to bring in guest instructors who are unique scholars or experts in their fields, and to make other exciting updates to our organizational capacity.

How they interact with the physical landscape of the Methow: This is something we are still very much listening for how to do. I think one of the most fundamental practices we have, as mentors but also as lifelong students ourselves, is to engage in practices of listening in as open-ended a way as possible, to and with landscapes and ecological communities (human-inclusive). The classes we’ve held so far in the valley have mostly been Wildlife Tracking & Trailing classes, such as our course this past May called “The Language of Animal Bodies: Tracking through a Somatic Lens” where we explored the role of emotion in living systems and the role of our own bodies as tools for scientific observation and analysis. Tracking, for us, as well as being a critically important conservation tool and a keystone part of the story of how our species developed our cognitive and wayfinding capacities, is simply a minimally-invasive way to get to know the non-humans around you and a way to slow down how your attention moves across the land, much like how a beaver slows the flow of water over terrain. As spouses and individuals, a lot of our groundwork for operating in the valley is still being laid, which includes getting to know human community, and getting out in the field as much as possible to “meet” and observe the plants, animals, and others with whom we share this landscape. We can commonly be found by the river or in the methow wildlife areas with rulers, magnifying glasses, and smiles on our faces!

What they’ve recently built that connects them to the Methow: With the help of our friends at Sawtooth Edible Gardens, this is the first summer we’re growing a garden together at our home in Twisp, after many years of moving around and being in places where this was difficult. Being able to grow food and compost food safely adds so much to our lives and gives us inspiration to bring into our work.

Their favorite Methow summer activity: Tracking by rivers, running wildlife cameras, photography, teaching our flagship course Queer Stealthcraft that includes a camouflage (glamouflage) drag runway, and generally spending time with friends outside!

What’s making them smile: Juvenile ravens, our cats, and pizza at Tappi!

How to get in touch with Queer Nature: Currently we are by appointment only since we are out in the field quite a bit for work in the warmer months. By winter time we plan to post some more regular hours at our Twispworks studio where folks can visit us. One can currently find some of our public offerings for 2SLGBTQ folks under the “offerings/skillshares” tab of our website, and we plan to add a few more casual meetups or evening social events soon that take place in the valley. We also have a Patreon account where subscribers can access exclusive or unpublished instructional videos, recorded lectures, essays, and blogs of ours for as little as $1 per month, and we are also active on instagram @queernature . We would love to connect more with local naturalists and anyone based in the valley interested in our work.